The holiday season, no matter how you celebrate, sparkles with those special sights, sounds, and smells that appear only in December.
The bells the jingle happily.
The lights that twinkle brightly.
The pine scent of the tree that tickles our noses.
But nothing says Christmas more than the food, as far as I am concerned.
Eggnog, candy canes, roast turkey, they all say holidays to me.
A staff meeting at work ended with a conversation that drifted to food, as it often did.
What can I say? We were educators by day and foodies by night.
The topic of conversation that particular day drifted to what food screams Christmas to us.
Several of my former coworkers said fried oysters.
Our dean picked out pumpkin pie.
She loves it, her husband and son not so much. She indulges her pumpkin passion over holidays. No matter who bakes, she doesn’t have to worry about eating the whole pie all by herself!
The admissions coordinator didn’t hesitate: Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without rainbow cookies.
Now this might not be the most traditional cookie of the Christmas cookie tradition, but for her, how those rainbow cookies smell as they bake whisk her right back to Christmases of childhood past.
I can’t remember what I said, probably it was probably my GaGa’s grapenut custard pudding. It was one of the few recipes from my grandmother that my mother still made as I was growing up.
The truth is our Christmas dinner was pretty standard – roast turkey, mashed potatoes, turnips and carrots (which I’d be hard pressed to eat today if I was starving), cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie (usually Mrs. Smith’s).
The food was nothing out of the ordinary, but our Christmas dinners were always special. Mom and Dad made sure the conversation flowed and we often celebrated with Grandpa or with Dad’s aunt and his cousin and her family.
Remembering those dinners make my smile decades later not for the food but for the joy and love shared around the table.
It wasn’t until Bob and I started hosting Christmas dinner that I started to pick out those special recipes for the holidays.
I’d page through cookbooks and magazines to find THE perfect side dishes and desserts.
And I found out that I am a fickle foodie.
I’d have a recipe that made several appearances on our Christmas menu, only to be replaced a few years later by a new favorite.
For years, that perfect Christmas recipe was broccoli in orange thyme sauce (from The Pickety Place Cookbook). An orange-cream cheese sauce seasoned with thyme topped steamed broccoli and it was all I could do to not eat the whole dish before the guests arrived.
Cranberry sauce was a requirement – and not that jellied kind either. Once I figured out how easy it is to make my own cranberry sauce, I was off and experimenting. Cranberries cooked with apricots and ginger (from a recipe from the now-defunct “Good Food” magazine) accompanied our turkey for many years.
When I couldn’t find Ocean Spray’s cranberry orange recipe any longer, I started making my own from the recipe the cranberry growers included on their packages of fresh cranberries. This recipe is so easy—throw fresh cranberries, sugar, and an orange into the food processor and push the on button — that it remains my go-to cranberry sauce recipe.
Honey mustard mashed sweet potatoes (a “Cooking Light” recipe) topped my list of go-to recipes for a few years. Now it’s cheesy baked asparagus.
As I write that, I wonder how much longer asparagus will be my signature dish, and what will eventually replace it.
I am after all, a fickle foodie.
What is your favorite holiday comfort food? Share what has your tummy saying yummy in the comments below. I’ll share the results of this mini-food poll after the holidays.
Thank you for spending time with me on the sunny side of life.